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Chinese-American Documentary on Wuhan Lockdown Wins Emmy Glory

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The Chinese-American feature documentary 76 Days snatched up the Emmy in the Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking category at the 73rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, held on September 11-12.

The film beat Kirsten Johnson’s Dick Johnson is Dead and David France’s Welcome to Chechnya to secure the prestigious golden statuette. 

The film’s victory in the category resulted in the first-ever Emmy for MTV Documentary Films, a division of MTV headed by the former president of HBO Documentary Films, Sheila Nevins.

76 Days was co-directed by Chinese-American director Hao Wu and highlights the stories of those affected by the spread of Covid-19 amid the Wuhan lockdown in early 2020. 

Wu’s documentary project began in February 2020, shortly after Wuhan’s history-making lockdown started on January 23, and continued until the city reopened in April. 

Since the New York-based director was outside of China, he had to rely on two collaborators in Wuhan to capture the necessary footage — Chinese filmmaker Weixi Chen and an anonymous photojournalist at a state-backed media company.

According to interviews with Wu, Chen and the unidentified reporter had been filming scenes in Wuhan since January, prior to his contact with them.

“I reached out to over a dozen filmmakers who had started filming on in Wuhan. After talking to them, that’s how I found my two co-directors. And then, as they continued filming, we started collaborating over the internet,” said Wu in a February interview with Slate, recalling the project’s timeline. “They would upload the footage every day after filming to a cloud service in China, and then I would download the footage in New York.”

Wu’s co-directors profiled the events in four hospitals in Wuhan. They documented the daily life of healthcare works and hospital patients and how people worked together in response to the crisis. 

While the film has received some negative critiques on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, it has achieved a strong score on China’s film review site Douban. At the time of writing, 76 Days (which has not been released in China) had an 8.2 on Douban after reviews from 5,721 users. 

Meanwhile, on the American film and TV review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the documentary holds a 100% ‘Fresh’ rating and an audience score of 85%.

Related:

“76 Days” Director Hao Wu: “The Covid-19 Story was Extremely Personal for Me”

Hao Wu originally hails from Southwest China’s Sichuan province. He started his filmmaking career in 2005 with his debut film Beijing or Bust, a documentary that tells the story of six American-born Chinese people who leave the US to live in Beijing. 

In his 2019 film All in My Family, Wu tapped into the challenges for Chinese gay people through his own personal lens. 

Cover image via IMDb

Wang Junjie
    Wang Junjie is a Shanghai-based writer and storyteller who originally hails from South-Central China’s Hunan province. He covers fashion, culture and society.